The Ocean County Board of Commissioners today passed a resolution in support of a Parents Bill of Rights giving parents more authority over sensitive curriculum taught in New Jersey's schools.
Fri May 20 2022 17:00:00 GMT+0000 (Coordinated Universal Time)
"All of the Commissioners have heard from constituents who have raised concerns about the state Department of Education's new health and sex education standards. Parents are concerned about the very sensitive topics that are being addressed particularly in grades K to 2," said Ocean County Commissioner Virginia E. Haines, who suggested the Board consider passing a resolution. "It's important we support parents' rights when it comes to what is being taught to their children and in what grades."
The resolution passed on May 18 by the Board of Commissioners noted that recent guidelines provided by the New Jersey Department of Education, legislation enacted by the New Jersey Legislature and signed into law by Governor Murphy regarding the teaching of highly sensitive material to young children, particularly grades kindergarten through second grade, is both disturbing and concerning to the parents and citizens in Ocean County and throughout New Jersey.
In addition, the resolution states that the New Jersey Department of Education's guidelines were promulgated and the legislation was passed and signed into law in 2020 and 2021 during the height of the coronavirus pandemic while residents were sheltering in place.
"The state did not offer parents an adequate opportunity for public comment and or input into this disturbing and highly sensitive material that will be taught to our young children," reads the resolution.
The original draft resolution discussed at a May 11 preboard went through some revisions.
Director of the Ocean County Board of Commissioners John P. Kelly said Ocean County is joining with other counties including Monmouth County in calling upon the state to return these curricula decisions to local school boards.
"Local school boards are closest to the parents and work collectively in providing the best guidelines and policies when it comes to teaching our children," Kelly said. "This is where these important decisions should be made."
Ocean County Commissioner Joseph H. Vicari, a long time educator, said it's imperative that parents be given the rights to make these decisions especially for our youngest students.
"The parents need to be provided with the tools and information that allow them to make an informed decision on what their children should be taught when it comes to sensitive topics," Vicari said. "Ultimately it's the parents' voice that should be heard."
The Commissioners have given their support to legislation such as the proposed "Parents Bill of Rights" that would give parents certain rights including, but not limited to, the right to review the curriculum to be taught to their children, to review a list of media services, textbooks and books to be used in the classroom and available to students within their district, and to opt their children out of any curriculum that the parent believes is not suitable.
Commissioner Gary Quinn said it was important that parental involvement play a key role in the development of this curriculum.
"The parents in our communities and local school board members have raised legitimate concerns about the actions of the state," said Quinn.
The Board is encouraging parents and community leaders to reach out to local school boards so they can be included in developing the framework for a Parents Bill of Rights.
"It's working together that will make important changes happen," said Ocean County Commissioner Barbara Jo Crea.
The county's resolution will be sent to the Governor, state Legislature, state Board of Education, all the mayors in Ocean County, the Ocean County Superintendent of Schools among others.